The game’s not over yet

NY Daily news cover
From New York Daily News

The Parkland mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school happened in about the 3rd inning. In the midst of the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Sutherland church shooting, the Parkland school shooting happened taking the lives of 17 innocent kids and teachers. The Parkland student survivors were not having it. They decided to speak out and challenge everything about gun violence and the corporate gun lobby.

Nothing will ever be the same. The “game” played by the gun lobby has been exposed. The whole country is aware, activated and talking about gun violence in ways that have not happened before Feb. 14th of this year.

In today’s Duluth News Tribune a letter writer challenged the NRA’s false claims about guns and gun ownership. The writer suggested that the NRA is striking out now that the spotlight is on their myths and dangerous agenda. He’s right. The Parkland students and students all over the country have emboldened not only students but the public. People are speaking out like never before and finally saying what needs to be said and have wanted to say for a long time now.

This writer said this:

Twice I have seen the same man in a local gas station with a pistol on his belt. He did not look well. Misery and depression were obvious on his face. A steady diet of Fox News can do that to a person. Yet he alone among the customers possessed lethal force. It was up to him to act as judge, jury, and executioner if he felt threatened. Is this law and order or Wild West chaos?

Keep your hunting rifles and your shotguns. Own a handgun if you must. But owning guns should not make you judge, jury, and executioner. Nor does it necessarily make you free.

Gun ownership means freedom. Wrong. Many so called good guys with guns have killed too many of our kids and others because of that myth of freedom.

Another letter writer challenged the NRA directly when he suggested that the NRA has struck out because their dangerous rhetoric has led to deaths and injuries:

When all else fails, the NRA seems to want you to believe that outlawing military-type weapons for private use will “not solve the problem,” the problem being the killing of innocent people. Yep, hasn’t stopped since Cain killed Abel. This is the same as saying, “Even though there are speed laws, people will disobey; therefore, we did not solve the problem. So why have speed laws?”

It seems the NRA cannot understand that reducing the slaughter is a worthy cause. Strike three; you’re out, NRA.

#WecallBS

I spent time with the students at one of our local high schools on Friday for the National School Walkouts. I could not be prouder of those kids who are doing what adults have not done. One group of students walked out of their classes to our City Hall and had a moment of silence for the victims of the Columbine shooting on the anniversary of the shooting. And then they got to work. Students called legislators to ask them to support a bill that would once again allow the Health Department to do research about gun violence. ( a no brainer but resisted by the corporate gun lobby). None of the students had done this before. It was heartening to see them improve their skills and get excited and feel so empowered by their activism. It was clear that they were making a difference because one staffer said that they knew what the call was about because they had been getting many calls.

After it was over, the press interviewed the students who spoke with authority and new found communication skills not found in many adults.

Another walkout in my city attracted 300 students who walked out and marched on city streets. A third of the student population gathered to express their exasperation with the game. They understand that our adult leaders are letting them down by not acting to save lives and prevent at least some of the shootings. They get it. They are the new players in this game and fast becoming the stars.

This is how change happens.

In addition, students signed postcards of thank you to Dick’s Sporting Goods for their decision to stop selling assault style rifles and destroy their inventory of said guns. They will be delivered in person to our local Dick’s store.

One student cried as she remembered a relative who had been shot in the Red Lake mass school shooting telling me how that shooting had affected her family. The shooting happened 13 years ago but still the memories of loss remain.I told her about my sister’s death and suggested that she talk more about her story. The walkout allowed her to talk about it in a safe place. She left feeling like she could make a difference.

The student led walkouts and marches have energized a generation and moved the entire country in a direction adults had not thought possible. It’s a strike against the gun lobby who has tried but failed to stain the Parkland surviving students. Shame on them for playing this ugly game.

The game is changing. A new poll in Minnesota shows broad support for gun safety reform:

A majority of Minnesotans support stricter gun laws in the United States, including wide backing for a ban on military-style rifles and for raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found.

An overwhelming 9 out of 10 Minnesota voters also favor mandatory criminal background checks on all gun sales, the poll shows, including those sold privately and at gun shows. And Minnesotans in every part of the state oppose the arming of schoolteachers, which some political leaders, including President Donald Trump, have suggested.

The polling shows political and regional divides regarding stronger gun laws but overall supports all previous polling on the issue in Minnesota and nation-wide.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of the devastation of gun violence, another mass shooting at a Nashville Waffle House left 4 dead. The hero of that incident stopped the gunman and saved lives– but he did it without a gun. A “good guy without a gun” was the quote from New York Daily News front page photo after the shooting. Not a good image for the corporate gun lobby.

And yes, it was another AR-15 that the shooter clearly should not have been able to access that accounted for a senseless and unmotivated shooting because………?:

Illinois authorities and the FBI interviewed him and revoked his firearms authorization. Four weapons were seized, including the AR-15 rifle used in the Waffle House shooting, Aaron said.

Officials returned the weapons to Reinking’s father, on the condition he would keep them out of his son’s hands. But the father gave the guns back to Reinking, Aaron said, adding that two of the four guns are missing.

In 2016, Reinking threatened to kill himself, and cops who arrived at a CVS parking lot said he told them singer Taylor Swift had been stalking him.

In what world would a father return the guns to his son who so clearly had problems? What was he thinking? Some people should not have guns, period. But everyone has a constitutional right to a gun.

Another strike against the gun lobby myths.

One more tragic and heartbreaking incident involving the totally avoidable and senseless shooting of a two year old by her own mother highlights again the risk of guns in homes. The gun lobby can’t explain these kinds of shootings without revealing the hypocrisy of their game of lies and deceptions. From the article:

Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS reported that the mother admitted to dropping the gun in a 911 call and said the girl was not breathing. She also told operators she thought the safety was off, but then later told authorities the safety was on, WEWS reported.

Police said the gun was legally registered and she owned a concealed carry permit.

There are no accidents with guns. They are lethal weapons designed to kill people.

“Good guys” with guns make lethal mistakes every day.

If there is any common sense, the public will win the game over deceptions and myths.

Two points of view, published in my local paper today, show us how the game is played. One, written by Daniel Hernandez, staffer to former Rep. Gabby Giffords and present at the Tucson shooting that left her forever changed, uses the facts to support the truth about gun violence in America:

Though gun laws vary from state to state, at least one trend is clear: States with weaker gun laws have more gun deaths. You would never know it, though, from the lies pushed by entrenched interests like the National Rifle Association, lies backed by the weight of the NRA’s vast political contributions.

For example, the NRA claims guns make people safer, that gun laws don’t work, and that the “only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But none of that is actually true.

In reality, owning a gun puts individuals at a higher risk of gun violence; strong gun violence prevention laws are effective at saving lives; and armed citizens rarely successfully intervene to stop an active shooter.

We have to be willing to call out these myths, educate voters, and hold elected officials accountable when they repeat them.

The other, uses the myths and deceptions used in the game played by the corporate gun lobby. The writer, with whom I am unfamiliar, equated overall crime rates to gun violence, a deception often used by those opposed to any common sense measures to save lives. It ends with one of the other myths claiming that passing stronger gun laws will take away the rights of law abiding gun owners. This specious claim is easily debunked and has been:

Instead of penalizing law-abiding gun owners who use their firearms to save thousands of people every year, lawmakers should work to reduce crime by improving economic growth and providing additional educational opportunities. Those are proven methods for limiting crime.

The writer also used the lie that most homicides are gang related and chose to discount the gun deaths caused by suicide:

It’s also important to note that relative to other problems in our society of 320 million people, gun-related crime caused by Americans who legally own a firearm involved in the crime is virtually nonexistent. Of the 33,000 gun-related deaths that occur each year, two-thirds are suicides, and the majority of the remaining 11,000 deaths are gang-related and involve guns purchased illegally.

Let’s look at just the lie about gang related shootings from the linked article above:

The 80 percent of gang-related gun homicides figure purporting to support Loesch’s claim, then, is not only false, but off by nearly a factor of five. The direct opposite is necessarily true: more than 80 percent of gun homicides are non-gang related. While gang violence is still a serious problem that needs to be addressed, it is disingenuous to assert that the vast majority of our gun problem (even excluding suicides) is caused by gangs.

The article refers to NRA talking head Dana Loesch, responsible for many of the lies pushed by that organization. We are on to her and her lies and not playing her game.

The NRA and the corporate gun lobby are striking out with the general public. It is a fierce game, accompanied by ugly attacks on those who just want to save lives. But it’s a long game and the players are changing.

The students have come off of the bench and they are becoming the star players. They are the hope that the game is changing.

The discussion about how to prevent gun violence should be not a game. But the NRA and the corporate gun lobby have made it so and they have been winning for far too long as the bodies have piled up.

#Enough  #WeCallBS

 

Columbine

state_flower_144419Today will be a different kind of remembrance for the Columbine mass shooting anniversary. It’s been 19 years now since the image of students with their hands raised over their heads emerged from the scene of a horrendous massacre that took the lives of 13 at Columbine High School. That was the first of the many such images to follow.

This year, the Parkland school shooting survivors have made the Columbine shooting anniversary something different. Different because the Parkland massacre that took the lives of 17 is the latest of a long list of horrible and devastating school shootings. And the Parkland students have started a movement that has changed everything. This day will be a day of activism from students on yet another student led walkout from school day.

Various activities are planned for the day. There will be walkouts, rallies, actions taken and whatever the students have decided works best for them. Never before on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting have there been nation-wide activism like we will see today.

The movement continues. The carnage continues. As long as the carnage continues, the movement will continue. As long as our leaders refuse to act, students will lead us to action to stop the carnage.

As long as common sense is ignored, the movement will continue. As long as the lapdog politicians keep ignoring the movement, the movement will grow.

When our elected leaders realize that this is real and this is powerful enough to change the practices of businesses like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Citibank, Bank of America, and others, they will be on the wrong side of history, of public support, and the wrong side of a public health epidemic that is growing every day they fail to act.

When our leaders and others realize that attacking the victims is simply not OK and will be challenged with consequences (Laura Ingraham, conservative Missouri talk show host), things will change.

For decades the NRA and others in their orbit have felt free to attack victims and viciously go after anyone who disagrees with them. NRATV is just one example of this hate. Alex Jones, conservative conspiracy theorist,  is another. The spotlight is on them right now but they continue with their hate speech and attacks until at some point there will be a consequence for their hate and fear filled paranoid rants.

As long as I am able, I will act in the memory of my sister and all of the victims of the shootings before, during and after the Columbine massacre.

Today we all remember all victims. Today the country mourns and the country acts. Today we remember.

In order of how they were killed:

Rachel Scott
Daniel Rohrbough
Dave Sanders*
Kyle Velasquez
Steven Curnow
Cassie Bernall
Isaiah Shoels
Matthew Kechter
Lauren Townsend
John Tomlin
Kelly Fleming
Daniel Mauser
Corey Depooter

Remember. Mourn. Act. Rally. Walkout. March. Send postcards. Make phone calls. Thank businesses. Get involved. Stay involved.

#Enough #Neveragain

Never again will the nation let our leaders get away with their willful inaction, their willful adherence to the myths of a once powerful gun lobby and lack of the courage to do the right thing in the name of the victims of gun violence.

Virginia Tech remembered as shootings continue in America

Virginia Tech Shooting AnniversaryTomorrow is April 16th ( one day from the late tax day deadline this year)

I want to first remember the victims of the Virginia Tech mass shooting which happened on April 16, 2007. It was the worst mass school shooting after Columbine and still remains one of our country’s deadliest mass shootings. 32 died and 17 were injured. The effects of that shooting, even 11 years later, live on for those who were there, those left behind and the entire community. Gun violence has a ripple effect. No one forgets. The corporate gun lobby wants us to forget. They are not succeeding. If anything, we are remembering more and more as more and more of these kind of shootings and every day homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings continue apace.

The young man who got his hands on a gun and shot up the Virginia Tech campus should not have had a gun and was clearly irresponsible with his gun. Not only was he irresponsible, he intentionally murdered innocent people. He was a supposed “legal” gun owner as his name was not in the FBI database flagging him as prohibited to buy a gun. It should have been but our loose gun laws allowed him to purchase that gun and kill people. Why did he want his gun? For self defense? No. To kill people.

Many gun owners are responsible with their guns and own them for hunting or sport. Many gun owners are not interested in shooting at people who they believe might do them harm because they are not paranoid. Most gun owners don’t just shoot first and ask questions later. In fact most Americans don’t do this because most Americans don’t own guns in their homes for hunting, sport or self protection. And they are more safe than those who do as it turns out.

I write all the time on this blog about the rare instances of needing a gun for self protection in your home or in public and the rare incidents of said uses of a gun. NPR posted this article a day ago about this very topic.:

The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tellsHere & Now‘s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared.”

The gun rights advocates beg to differ with little evidence or actual facts- from the article:

But the research spread by the gun lobby paints a drastically different picture of self-defense gun uses. One of the most commonly cited estimates of defensive gun uses, published in 1995 by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, concluded there are between 2.2 and 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually.

One of the main criticisms of this estimate is that researchers can’t seem to find the people who are shot by civilians defending themselves because they don’t show up in hospital records.

“The Kleck-Gertz survey suggests that the number of DGU respondents who reported shooting their assailant was over 200,000, over twice the number of those killed or treated [for gunshots] in emergency departments,” crime prevention researcher Philip Cook wrote in the book Envisioning Criminology.

Kleck says there is no record of these gunshot victims because most instances of self-defense gun use are not reported.

Hmmmm. Really? Why not report these incidents if it is so important to you? Because they are not happening, that’s why.

“The researchers who look at [Kleck’s study] say this is just bad science,” Hemenway says. “It’s a well-known problem in epidemiology that if something’s a rare event, and you just try to ask how many people have done this, you will get incredible overestimates.”

In fact, Cook told The Washington Post that the percentage of people who told Kleck they used a gun in self-defense is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliensThe Post notes that “a more reasonable estimate” of self-defense gun uses equals about 100,000 annually, according to the NCVS data.

Check out this chart from the Gun Violence Archive for facts:

You can see for yourself how often guns are used defensively and how many end up being used to kill or injure someone by comparison.  Not even close.

The NRA extremists in the form of their leaders and their minions, have ratcheted up the fear and paranoia for so many decades that they have convinced a certain segment of gun owners that they should be afraid of their own shadows. They are afraid of the wrong thing.

Three incidents from the past day or two prove my point.

 

This one involved a black teen who got lost while looking for his school. He innocently knocked on the door of the home of one of those aforementioned paranoid and racist homeowners:

A black teenager was nearly shot and killed by a racist homeowner after missing his bus and trying to ask a neighbor for directions. (…)

“I got to the house, and I knocked on the lady’s door,” Brennan told the TV station. “Then she started yelling at me and she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High, and she kept yelling at me.”

“Then the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the gun,” the teen added. “I saw it and started to run — and that’s when I heard the gunshot.”

The shot missed the fleeing teen, and Brennan said he kept running until he found a hiding place, and that’s when he broke down crying.

His crime was being Black and lost and knocking on the wrong door, apparently. And more from the boy:

“My mom says that black boys get shot because sometimes they don’t look their age, and I don’t look my age,” he said. “I’m 14, but I don’t look 14. I’m kind of happy that, like, I didn’t become a statistic.”

He was one of the lucky ones who did not become a statistic. But way too many do.

This gun owner should be held accountable for, at the least, reckless discharge of a gun and at the most, intent to injure or kill someone. Let’s see how this one turns out.

Another teenaged Oklahoma boy did, however, become a statistic. His own father shot and killed him in his haste to shoot first and ask questions later. Without that gun in his hand, his son would be alive today. And what did he do wrong? Let’s look:

When Tony Rutherford, 47, arrived in the middle of the night, he saw his older son’s pickup truck cut across a field. It was supposed to be parked.

According to the release, Rutherford “gave chase and fired his rifle at the driver several times.”

At least one of those rounds hit the driver, who was pronounced dead at the scene. That driver, found slumped over in the driver’s seat of the pickup, was later identified as Rutherford’s 13-year-old son.

“What is unique about this case is that we have a father who thought he was protecting an older son’s property, and in fact, he shot and killed his younger son, not knowing it was his younger son,” Jennifer Brown, OSBI spokeswoman, told KOAM.

Unique? No actually, incidents like this happen often enough in America as to be of grave concern. I have written many many times in this blog about family members “accidentally” killing each other when they mistake them for someone else and don’t use an ounce of common sense.

The boy’s death was totally avoidable and senseless. How will that father be able to live with what he did?

And then there is this, all too common stupid and dangerous use of a gun- an 8 year old had a loaded gun and fired it off while walking home from school with friends!:

Detectives said the gun is legally owned by a family member of the child.

Police said that the child took the gun that morning without the owner’s knowledge, and carried it to Harper Elementary in his backpack.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Lock up your darned guns everybody. Safe storage can save lives. Where is common sense?

Do I have to remind you all that these two gun owners were “law abiding” until suddenly they weren’t? And the parents of the 8 year old? I have no words. They were the “good guys” with guns that NRA VP Wayne LaPierre loves to talk about. As recently as the CPAC convention, mentioned in the above linked article, La Pierre was using the same old unprovable and nonsensical argument about those good guys out there with guns. And this happened just a week after the Parkland school shooting that shocked the nation and caused everyone to take a different look at the National Rifle Association. Take a look at the continuing rants of this man who represents a group that represents a very small minority of Americans- about 1.5% of us.

Wayne- we actually hate the shootings.

Gun ownership is going down. The NRA’s reputation is in the toilet. They are now part of the Mueller investigation.

What LaPierre and others sometimes talk about but don’t often do much about is that gun ownership requires not only common sense but responsibility, training, and restraint. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill. And kill they do. They are the only product on the market not regulated for safety. There are no training requirements to own a gun and very few for carrying one in public.

We are changing the culture and the conversation more slowly than we should since the body count is increasing every year.  

Finally the messaging of the corporate gun lobby is falling apart. It’s well past time for that to happen. Just as with gay marriage, the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke and driving while drunk changed laws and the culture, so too will allowing loose gun laws to lead to a national public health and safety epidemic.

Candidates and lawmakers are now publicly stating their support for measures that will save lives and claiming their “F” rating from the NRA proudly.

Yesterday I attended my congressional district convention as a delegate. Not one of the democratic candidates running or current sitting lawmakers were against passing reasonable laws to protect our kids and communities from the devastation of gun violence. Even those in districts where many gun owners and hunters live agreed that something has to be done. I had many conversations with these leaders and candidate as did many in the room. Gun violence prevention was on the top of the list as issues of concern.

The Parkland students and students all over this country are telling lawmakers that they are no longer willing to listen to their BS representing gun lobby speak. Students and others in the Virginia, Maryland, DC area came out for a rally at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia yesterday.  They ( we) are not going away any time soon. We are more committed than ever to getting things done to save lives.

We are better than this and the public has had about #enough.

#Neveragain.

 

 

What’s happening in gun world?

Woman with dog and diplomaThe responses to the student-led movement after the Parkland shooting are occurring around the country. Some are positive, some are negative.The arrogance and ramped up fear of the students and those who support them has been a thing. The students are not done yet as events are planned for April 20th for another walkout on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. 

Let’s review just a few of the things that have been going on gun world:

An Illinois town passed a law limiting certain military assault style rifles:

 

The ordinance states, “The possession, manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the Village of Deerfield is not reasonably necessary to protect an individual’s right of self-defense or the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.”

So, beginning June 13, banned assault weapons in Deerfield will include semiautomatic rifles with a fixed magazine and a capacity to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, shotguns with revolving cylinders, and conversion kits from which assault weapons can be assembled. And those are just a few of the firearm varieties banned. The list is long and includes all the following models or duplicates thereof: AK, AKM, AKS, AK-47, AK-74, ARM, MAK90, Misr, NHM 90, NHM 91, SA 85, SA 93, VEPR, AR-10, AR-15, Bushmaster XM15, Armalite M15, Olympic Arms PCR, AR70, Calico Liberty, Dragunov SVD Sniper Rifle, Dragunov SVU, Fabrique NationalFN/FAL, FN/LAR, FNC, Hi-Point Carbine, HK-91, Kel-Tec Sub Rifle, SAR-8, Sturm, Ruger Mini-14, and more.

We can expect major pushback and maybe even legal measures from gun rights advocates who like to believe that anything like this is unconstitutional. But they are unlikely to win in today’s atmosphere. Courts have been ruling that assault weapons bans do not violate the constitutional right to bear arms as described in the second amendment.

Many states also have pre-emption laws that make it impossible for local communities to pass stronger gun laws than existing state laws. This was brought to us by the corporate gun lobby and their minions in state legislatures like my own in Minnesota and 39 other states.

Which brings me to the second happening in gun world from the past week or so. A federal judge has determined that assault weapons bans passed in some states and now local communities are perfectly legal:

U.S. District Judge William Young dismissed a lawsuit challenging the 20-year-old ban, saying assault weapons are military firearms that fall beyond the reach of the constitutional right to “bear arms.”

Regulation of the weapons is a matter of policy, not for the courts, he said.

“Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens,” Young said. “These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment. Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous and robust debate about these matters. We call it democracy.”

The state of Massachusetts passed an assault weapons ban decades ago. And it still stands. The state’s Attorney General had this to say about the ruling:

“Strong gun laws save lives, and we will not be intimidated by the gun lobby in our efforts to end the sale of assault weapons and protect our communities and schools,” Healey, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Families across the country should take heart in this victory.”

Is it any coincidence that Massachusetts has strong gun laws and the lowest gun death rate in the country? From this article:

In a major public health win, newly available federal data shows that Massachusetts has the lowest gun-related mortality rate in the country, a victory likely tied to legislative successes.

The CDC data, cited Tuesday in a Violence Policy Center (VPC) report, puts Massachusetts’ 2015 rate at 3.13 gun-related deaths per 100,000 residents. The next lowest rate, seen in Hawaii, was 3.84 deaths per 100,000 residents.

But shouldn’t we be concerned that overall gun deaths rates are going up? That brings me to my third point. From the article:

Firearm-related deaths rose for the second-straight year in 2016, largely due to spikes in gun violence in major cities like Chicago, newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

In 2016, there were more than 38,000 gun-related deaths in the U.S. — 4,000 more than 2015, the new CDC report on preliminary mortality data shows. Most gun-related deaths — about two-thirds —in America are suicides, but an Associated Press analysis of FBI data shows there were about 11,000 gun-related homicides in 2016, up from 9,600 in 2015. The increase in gun-related deaths follows a nearly 15-year period of relative stasis.

“The fact that we are seeing increases in the firearm-related deaths after a long period where it has been stable is concerning,” Bob Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the CDC’s Center for Health Statistics, told the New York Times.Fortune reported last week that the mortality data also showed an increase in drug-overdose deaths, largely do to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

There should be no surprises here. High profile mass shootings, most with military style assault style rifles account for a small percentage of overall gun deaths but they have taken the lives of dozens at a time which surely has affected the overall gun death rate. We have a serious epidemic of large proportions that we are ignoring. Even after the Parkland shooting, which caused many changes to politicians’ willingness to address the issue of gun violence in ways we have not ever seen before, some are defiant and intent on showing people that they represent the very small minority of NRA and gun owners in America.

Which brings me to my fourth point. At a recent town hall meeting, South Carolina Representative Ralph Norman thought he was being clever  when he pulled out his gun and laid it on a table before the crowd:

A South Carolina Republican congressman is not backing down from critics after he pulled out his own personal — and loaded — .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun during a meeting with constituents Friday.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, told The Post and Courier he pulled out the weapon and placed it on a table for several minutes in attempt to make a point that guns are only dangerous in the hands of criminals.

“I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords,” Norman said afterward, referring to the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman who was shot outside a Tucson-area grocery store during a constituent gathering in 2011.

Really Representative Norman? Where is your common sense? In the current state of mind of the American public, this was a truly bad idea. What is your point? Mark Kelly, of the Giffords organization and husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords responded to this truly ludicrous move by the Republican Congressman:

Giffords’ husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, said in a statement that Norman is “no Gabby Giffords” and noted that his wife has dedicated her life to ending gun violence.

“Americans are increasingly faced with a stark choice: leaders like Gabby, who work hard together to find solutions to problems, or extremists like the NRA and Congressman Norman, who rely on intimidation tactics and perpetuating fear,” Kelly said.

Norman said he’ll display his gun at future constituent meetings.

“I’m tired of these liberals jumping on the guns themselves as if they are the cause of the problem,” Norman told The Post and Courier. “Guns are not the problem.”

Yes, guns are the problem. We are onto you Rep. Norman. #WeCallBS. What you said and did at a public town hall meeting defies reason and the facts. You are wrong. And the public is not having it any more. We’ve had #Enough of this BS. We understand that the problem is actually- guns. Too many guns = too many gun deaths. The facts are clear. You are in the 3% of Americans who actually and stupidly believe that we should not require background checks on all gun sales. 

Support for common sense gun laws is going up, not down, just as gun deaths are going up. We have noticed. From the article:

Roughly 2 in 3 Americans now say gun control laws should be made more strict in the wake of the murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to a number of polls, including a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that shows support for stricter gun laws among registered voters at 68 percent, compared with just 25 percent who oppose stricter gun laws.

It’s common for support for gun control to tick up in the aftermath of mass shootings. But there appears to be a clear trend in all the post-Parkland, Florida, polling: This time is different. The percentage of Americans who want more restrictive gun laws is greater now than after any other recent shooting.

Which brings me to my fifth point- For those who are attacking the facts and even the Parkland students- stand aside. Your behavior is noticed and we don’t like it. Try as you might to convince the public that guns are not the problem and that more guns make us safer, it’s not working. From the article:

The attacks now come not just from the alt-right and anonymous Twitter louts. Since the weekend’s massive marches for gun control, more and more prominent figures in media and politics are aiming previously unfathomable public attacks at the youngsters. (…) Given that the Parkland student-activists are still working to encourage more town hall events and more demonstrations, it seems likely these teenagers will face evermore vile personal and public attacks in the months to come. Although we cannot expect any personal responsibility from internet trolls, Americans should expect better from public officials, who have the power to lend legitimacy to the more disgraceful arguments circling around social media. But in the instances above, the public responded by rejecting the hateful arguments, and proved we have the power to hold these politicians to account.

We should and must expect better from public officials. What are they thinking? Being under the thumb of the increasingly unpopular and corrupt NRA ( see article for ties to Russia and the Mueller investigation) is just not a good idea any more.

Which brings me to my sixth point- the November 18th elections are going to matter when it comes to guns. This will be one of the main issues in the next election:

Now, suburban voters increasingly find that on guns they have more in common with their urban friends than with their rural ones. Some restrictions on guns, in particular, seem increasingly reasonable to swing voters after numerous mass shootings. As the issue has become more salient politically, it has also become potentially more effective for Democrats. (…)

Opponents of new gun controls are now so thoroughly integrated into the GOP that they are part of that party’s political base. Because they are no longer swing voters, they no longer have the electoral clout they once did.

Some Democrats from conservative, largely rural states or congressional districts will need pro-gun voters to win elections, and they will try to walk a fine line on the issue, as Conor Lamb is trying to do now in a western Pennsylvania House special election.

But in many states and districts, swing suburbanites — and particularly suburban women — are a much more important constituency than are NRA members because those suburban voters can decide which party wins — just the way anti-gun control voters once could.

This increased attention from suburbanites has changed the electoral equation for 2018, and that is why Democrats now should benefit from any focus on gun control issues.

It’s long past time for this shift. The body count has mounted as voters have been deceived by the gun lobby into voting for pro-gun candidates, intolerant of and totally resistant to any gun safety reform measures. The fear and paranoia is just not working any more. Instead, the fear of being shot has increased and the public is standing with our teens who are telling us that they are more afraid to go to school than they are of the insane rhetoric (much from NRATV) coming from the likes of Wayne LaPierre and Dana Loesch. Their increasingly desperate and unhinged rhetoric is falling more and more on deaf ears.

Take note, NRA lapdogs– you may not be around to make those nasty comments and pull out your guns at public meetings any more. You will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

We are better than this and the public understands that.

I will end with the video brought to us by the Brady Campaign about lapdog politicians. It’s good for a laugh which is much needed today, but it’s serious stuff. Watch.

 

 

 

 

 

We should never forget

MLK dream memeOne of the things about mass shootings and everyday shootings is that we have a tendency to forget about them and the victims because so many others come behind them to take a place in our collective conscience.

The gun lobby and their lapdog politicians want us to forget about them because remembering all of the carnage serves to put the focus squarely where it belongs- on their resistance to any common sense gun safety reform measure that could save lives and prevent the shootings.

So today I am going to remind us about a shooting anniversary. 9 years ago today, 13 were massacred at a Citizenship class in Binghamton, New York:

 

A gunman invaded an immigration services center in downtown Binghamton, N.Y., during citizenship classes on Friday and shot 13 people to death and critically wounded 4 others before killing himself in a paroxysm of violence that turned a quiet civic setting into scenes of carnage and chaos. (…)

Two pistols and a satchel of ammunition were found with the body. In what the police took to be evidence of preparation and premeditation, the assailant had driven a borrowed car up against the center’s back door to barricade it against escape, then had walked in the rain around to the front to begin the attack.

What motivated the assault remained a mystery. Binghamton officials said the assailant apparently had ties to the center, which helps immigrants and refugees with counseling, resettlement and other issues.

This was just another mass shooting but, according to the article:

It was the nation’s worst mass shooting since April 16, 2007, when Seung-Hui Cho, 23, shot and killed 32 people in a dormitory and classroom at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va., then killed himself in the largest shooting in modern American history. In the last month, 25 people, including 2 gunmen, were slain in three mass shootings, in North Carolina, California and Alabama.

Since then, of course, our country has experienced other horrendous mass shootings. To name just a few:

Sandy Hook in 2012- the slaughter of 20 first graders and 6 educators.

Aurora theater shooting in 2012- leaving 12 dead and 70 injured.

Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 with 49 dead and 58 injured.

Las Vegas in 2017- 58 massacred and 851  injured!Parklan

Sutherland, Texas church shooting left 26 dead and 20 injured.

Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14th of this year leaving 17 dead and 17 injured.

We shouldn’t think these will be the worst.

Because some of our leaders have chosen to close their eyes and ears to these tragic shootings of innocent Americans, we know there will be more.

They are not acting to stop the next shooting or prevent easy access to guns by those who shouldn’t have them or stop military style assault rifles from being too easily available for the slaughter of our kids.

Where is common sense?

Back to the inauspicious anniversary of the shooting at a citizenship class in Binghamton, New York, it does seem as if the community and the nation has moved on:

Eight years later, the world has largely forgotten about Binghamton, its tragedy turned achingly familiar by the shootings that have followed. This is far from a mournful place, and the little memorial park that residents built by the Chenango River is quiet and tasteful. But the rampage still affects the community and its people in subtle ways. (…)

“It was an episode that ripped apart our delusion that we were safe from all that,” said Gerald R. Smith, a 63-year-old historian who works out of the Broome County Public Library downtown.

Yes, it can happen here, Binghamton learned the hard way, in a small city of about 46,000, roughly the size of Attleboro or Leominster.

The ripple effect of gun violence swirls around us in communities all over our country. The families and friends of the victims never forget. They learn to live around the hole in their hearts and their lives caused by a senseless shooting. But some things cannot be forgotten or erased from the collective memories of a small town north of New York City. The shooting will never make sense as they never do. More from the linked article:

King is 55, a trim, well-spoken man who keeps a packed schedule. The growing number of mass shootings in the years after Binghamton — the litany that opens this story is just a sampling — has driven him to deep frustration. Though he never raises his voice in an hourlong interview at his office, his exasperation is clear.

“I’m sickened that another group of innocent people will go through what we did,” he said last week, with news of the Sutherland Springs shooting still fresh.

“I just know deeply . . . ”

He cut off the thought and began another.

“Those families now — they have no idea the recovery . . . ”

He tapped his fingers over his heart.

“You can’t go to the cinema. Can’t go to the mall. Can’t go to church. Can’t go to school. My temple has had a policeman outside since 9/11,” he said. “It’s sick.”

It is sick. There is something wrong in our country. We have a serious public health and safety epidemic and we are ignoring it because……… because……… the corporate gun lobby’s hold on our elected leaders. There can be no other explanation.

Tomorrow will be the 50th anniversary of the shooting of Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr. I will always remember the news of the shooting of a man who was a national hero of the civil rights movement in our country. A woman at the scene of King’s shooting at a Memphis hotel still recalls the event tearfully in this story. 

People don’t forget seeing dead bodies. They don’t forget hearing gunshots. They don’t forget becoming a part of a national tragedy that they had no idea was coming when they woke up that morning. They don’t forget the sirens. They don’t forget the shock and the chaos. They don’t forget the phone call telling them that a loved one has been shot and killed in an unexpected and violent way.

These are our collective memories. Mass shootings. Shootings of political leaders. Shooting of a loved one. Shooting of a friend or a neighbor. We don’t forget. For if we do, we will never do what is right in the name of the victims.

Every day – we remember.

The movement created by the Parkland shooting student survivors is changing everything and making sure we do not forget the lives lost. They will not let us forget and they will not let our leaders forget:

Stoneman Douglas students from Parkland, Florida, and the people they’ve inspired seem intent on keeping the issue of gun violence front and center in the coming weeks: Marches and rallies have continued, and there are plans for a nationwide school walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.

Victoria Kaplan, organizing director for MoveOn.org, said she considers those steps “really strong indicators” that political engagement will continue through November — and perhaps far beyond.

And Kris Brown, Co-President of the Brady Campaign made this observation ( from the above linked article):

Brown said frequent lockdown and mass shooter drills at schools around the country have shown kids what needs to change.

“For many kids, this is how they grew up, and it’s a reminder, every time they go through it, of how little has been done to truly protect them,” Brown said. “The answer that the adults have put into place, they know, really, is not going to stop it from happening again.”

“I don’t see them just walking away from this,” she added. “This is something that’s deeply personal, like, ‘You’ve told me this is the way our government is supposed to work. I see that this is — pardon my French — a bastardization of it. Fix it, and if you’re not going to fix it, then get out of the way.’”

A major motivator is students’ visceral anger at “the corruption of our political system,” as Ambler characterized it.

No, we won’t forget that our system has been corrupted by the corporate gun lobby and its’ corporate money given to our leaders and used to intimidate voters and leaders alike.  Follow the money.

The students are reminded whenever they have active shooter drills in their schools hoping that their school will not be next.

Every time another shooting happens, we should remember those that came before and remember who is standing in the way of the changes we deserve.

The students and young people are keeping the dream of change alive.

The Gun Violence Archive does not forget. In fact, the organization is keeping track of our daily carnage. Here is what they have posted today:

The dreams of too many shattered. The potential of too many people unrealized. The grief for the lost lives. The bodies piled up. The American tragedy.

#Enough

 

 

Vote them out

Time cover
Time magazine

This week, the Minnesota House Public Safety committee did not have the courage to take a vote on whether to move a background check bill and a Gun Violence Protection Order bill out of committee for a vote. Those who voted against taking the bills off the table where they had been since hearings about a month ago were cowardly, afraid, insensitive, clueless, and tone deaf. If they don’t get what the student movement is about, they will find out. After the vote in the committee, red and orange shirted Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota volunteers got up and walked out chanting “Vote them out.”

The students have made a difference in Minnesota and all over the country. Their voices are resonating in the halls of our legislatures and Congress. Were it not for students politely asking why the Minnesota Senate would not hear the gun safety bills sitting in committee and being “escorted” out of the room, the Senator Democratic minority leader Tom Bakk may not have written this extraordinary piece in today’s Duluth News Tribune,:

I want it to be clear: I support these students’ efforts to motivate the institution into holding hearings. I support several common-sense gun-safety measures. And I’d welcome another opportunity for bipartisan compromise in the state Senate. We owe it our students.

It is not lost on Senator Bakk that there will be at least 2 student marches today in small towns in his district, in the middle of hunting and gun owning country. There will be at least 13 marches today all over Minnesota. Let the student voices be heard. They will make the difference.

We’ve had #enough of this equivocating, avoidance, and ignoring a national public health epidemic that is killing our kids. We will remember in November the cowardice of these legislators. The student movement is staring them in the face. Tomorrow it is expected that tens of thousands of people will be marching all over our country to demand action and common sense from our leaders. March For Our Lives is happening. I marched in the Million Mom March in 2000 with 750,000 others who had hope. But nothing happened. Why? The Republicans were in control of the House and Senate and paid allegiance to the corporate gun lobby. They abrogated their responsibility to our kids. The Columbine school shooting had occurred shortly before the march. Even that could not persuade them.

The Million Mom March chapters merged with the Brady Campaign in chapters all over the country. We are actively involved with the students who are planning the marches all over the country and with the students who have come to DC to march. By hosting workshops, speakers and events, they are helping the students hone their messaging and their skills as well as registering them to vote. All of the gun violence prevention groups are involved with this effort. It is to support the kids. They are leading and we should get out of the way. Many of them will be voting in November and this issue will be at the top of their priorities.

The shootings have continued unabated since the Columbine shooting first awoke our collective conscience about the horror of school shootings. Since then, regular school mass shootings and mass shootings at other places have become commonplace in our country. And many of us have worked tirelessly to make the changes we deserve in the name of the victims. We have been waiting for the young people to get involved but we did not expect it to look like this.

Today I will march with the students and community for the sake of my dead sister and all of the other victims of gun violence. I will march for all of those Parkland students and students from Minnesota and all 50 states who will be in DC for this momentous occasion. And it will be momentous!

Today is also the anniversary of a school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, leaving 5 dead. Since the shooters were so young- 11 and 13, – so young to become mass shooters. From the article:

The two were reportedly planning a shooting and getaway, with news reports at the time detailing how Johnson took his parents’ car and the boys broke into Golden’s grandparents’ home where his grandfather kept his guns unlocked. One of the pair then pulled the fire alarm at lunch and opened fire when people started to flee.

“They were hiding in bushes and shooting at us,” Spencer said. “We didn’t know what was going on. It was an ambush. It was chaos.

How do young boys like this get ideas like those described above? The gun came from the home of a grandfather where they were unlocked. In 1998 this was the 2nd deadliest mass shooting in our history. How things have changed. Columbine happened in 1999.

If you read the entire article you will see that these two shooters (Jonesboro) are now adult men, out after serving 10 years and both wanting to possess or possessing firearms:

As for Johnson, he obtained a firearm at some point after his release. After a traffic stop in Arkansas in 2007, he was arrested for possessing a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance. The lawyer who represented him in that case, Jack Schisler, told ABC News that in more than 20 years of practicing law, he has never seen that charge used. When asked why that particular charge was used, Schisler said: “Because he’s Mitchell Johnson, Jonesboro school shooter. That’s my opinion.”

“They were looking at the fact that because he was a juvenile when he got involved in the Jonesboro school shooting and, essentially, got out when he was 21 years old, that didn’t sit well with a lot of people. And I think they thought this would be probably the most powerful charge,” Schisler said.

“….that didn’t sit well with a lot of people.” I wonder why? When you kill 5 innocent people for no reason at all, you shouldn’t have guns, period. It sounds like Johnson was not thinking that as a murderer, he ought not to use a controlled substance with a gun in his possession.

Where is common sense?

This week a 16 year old Minnesota boy took a loaded handgun to school and was caught and arrested. Could we have had a mass school shooting in Minnesota? Yes. Of course. Why else does a 16 year old bring a gun to school? How and why does he even have a gun in his possession? Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. On the same day the Minnesota legislature refused to consider common sense, a 17 year old Maryland teen brought a gun he took from home ( belonged to his father) and shot and injured one boy and critically injured a girl with whom he had been in a relationship. She has now died. The boy died when a school resource officer shot him.

Far too often relationships end in shootings. That is the story of my sister. If a gun is not present, relationships are less likely to end in death.

After the march tomorrow I will be leaving on a trip to Florida, the gunshine state, with my family. I will likely be away from my blog but the way things have been going I may actually have to write while away. As we now know, Governor Rick Scott, up for re-election, signed a law to make Florida safer. This was in direct response to the Parkland students raising their voices and challenging the adults to do something to stop the shootings. But I will be watchful given that Florida’s gun death rate is higher than in Minnesota at 26th out of 50 states.

Congress passed some weak provisions in the omnibus bill just signed by President Trump hoping we will go away and not bother him or them any more. That is where they are wrong. We see what they did. Their weak kneed and limp response is shameful. We noticed. From the article:

The three provisions drew a lukewarm response from gun-control advocates. On the one hand, they were encouraged that a Republican majority resolutely opposed to restrictions on gun access felt compelled to pass even a modest, bipartisan bill in that direction. But they worried that the move would sap momentum for more expansive changes they believe are necessary to actually prevent gun violence and mass shootings.

“Congress clearly feels the pressure from Americans demanding action, but these baby steps forward aren’t enough,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Congress needs to buck the NRA and go big on gun safety. If they don’t, voters will throw them out.”

Just last week Congress introduced the WOOFF bill after a dog died in an overhead compartment on an airplane. Really? One dog dies and Congress introduces an immediate bill to deal keeping pets safe. But 17 kids die in a mass school shooting and- nothing? This is lunacy.

As I board my plane I will think about all of this in perspective. Things are so out of whack when we care more about pets than we do about our kids. We have a serious public health epidemic called gun violence. Now at least the CDC will get to maybe do some research but with no funding, maybe not? We know the cause and we know the effects. The cause is too easy access to the way too many guns in America. The effect? – shootings and dead people.

Congress and the President nibbled around the edges. They did little to affect the change that is required to protect our students from harm. Congress, do no harm. Voters are watching and voters care. Nothing will be the same after the Parkland shooting and today’s marches.

#Neveragain

As I soak up the sun in Florida I will think about the students who were massacred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I will celebrate that the response by our country’s teens and the adults who support them was immediate and forceful. And I will be saddened by the totally inadequate and irresponsible response by our Congress and state legislatures.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, for whom the now infamous high school is named, had it right:

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

 

 

” Am I Next?”

Am I Next?Since I wrote my last post, the #NationalWalkoutDay has occurred. In my area, almost every middle and high school and the local University participated in different ways. It is estimated that between 500-800 students in the Duluth and immediate area walked out. Nationwide about 1 million students took part in the day.  That is a loud message to Congress and legislators who have been ignoring the shootings and failing to protect our kids from dying in a school shooting.

Having worked with some of these young organizers, I have learned more than a few things. The first is that the kids know what they are thinking and know what they are doing. They have very strong feelings about feeling vulnerable to shooters in their schools. This is the generation that has grown up with regular lockdown drills and also regular real lockdowns. They are afraid.

They also understand that some of the adults in their sphere and nationally have failed them. This opinion piece was in my local paper a few days ago:

You will also be made out to be somebody who does not have a mind of their own and is being manipulated by adults telling you to do this. But what they seem to forget is that students your age don’t always feel the need to listen to adults anyway. And you know what? You shouldn’t, and here’s why: You are supposed to develop a mind of your own. It’s what we want you to do. Some adults find it easy to criticize your generation for not having any depth and only caring about selfies and YouTube. They say you can’t handle real life issues and that you break down and cry too easily. (…)

You are not perfect, and adults have a lot they can teach you about a variety of life issues; however, at some point soon you will become adults, too. And let me tell you, right now this world is in dire need of more people who are willing to make positive change in the dark issues that us current adults have created. So kids, keep your heads high, your mind sharp, your skin thick and your hearts big.

You’ve got this.

If you read the comments on the article, you will find adults spewing the usual NRA talking points but they are weak and hackneyed in today’s world of school shootings. They prove the point of the article writer quite nicely. Some adults hate that the kids are speaking out. They are a powerful collective voice for common sense that is being heard by those who have become deaf to the voices of victims and people concerned about the devastation of gun violence in our country.

They’ve got this. My local chapter sent observers to the student walkouts on Wednesday to support them. All adults who stood behind the students were overwhelmed by the 17 minute silence, die-ins, empty shoes, chalk writings, poetry, music and the silence. Did I say silence?

We were moved to tears. The students- so respectful, so organized, so brave, so thoughtful, so knowledgeable, so committed, so articulate. I am in awe.

The walkout that I attended was silent. All students left their campus in downtown Duluth and walked silently in single file one block to the main street of Duluth and stood on the sidewalk with arms linked. No one spoke. Some of the kids had placards around their necks with the names of the Parkland shooting victims on them. After a few minutes of standing a few students broke away from the line and began writing names of victims, school shootings and sayings with chalk on the sidewalk. Again- in silence. One girl cried. Several comforted her.

After 17 minutes, the students walked back to their campus- again in silence and left the adults who were there with hope in the upcoming generation of young adults. They have challenged the common wisdom on the issue of gun violence in a way the adults have not been able to do. They are not afraid of the NRA and they have no time for adults who are. Learn from them. They have the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said.

This article has more about the walkouts in my area.

The video below is one of my favorites:

Enough Dana Loesch. No more sanctimony and fake news. Your words are meaningless next to the words of the students.

And here is Loesch ripping on the Women’s March and the students who walked out.

Really Dana Loesch? More lies and deceptions.

We’ve had #enough and so have the students.

If Loesch and her bosses at the NRA think this is just kid stuff and not to worry, I suggest they check out what these young people  said at one of the walkouts. Senator Elizabeth Warren has it right ( from the article):

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was among a handful of Democratic lawmakers to greet student speakers.

“The NRA has held Congress hostage for so many years now,” Warren told MSNBC. “These young people are here to set us free.”

The students have already set us free in so many ways. More adults are now freer to say what needs to be said to the corporate gun lobby’s lies and deceptions. The students are speaking out loud what the rest of us have been saying amongst ourselves for many years:

#WeCallBS.

The kids have learned the language about the gun control debate and they understand it. They understand that they could be next.

For the adults who don’t get what is going on, this one is for you:

And this: